Lakers Trade Ideas to Bolster Pursuit of Championship Repeat
The threat of complacency looms over every reigning NBA champion, and it extends beyond the nightly effort levels of the players.
Front offices can grow complacent, too, patting themselves on the back during a glorified victory lap.
Clearly, that isn't happening with the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite coming off a title run in the bubble, they got busy upgrading their supporting cast around LeBron James and Anthony Davis this offseason. They traded for Dennis Schroder and hit free agency to find Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews.
The work isn't necessarily done yet, though. All rosters can be improved, and the Lakers should consider the following three options between now and the March 25 trade deadline.
Find a Bargain Shooter
The Lakers are an efficient three-point shooting team, but they don't have many high-volume gunners. James (2.7), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (2.2) and Kyle Kuzma (1.7) are the only players averaging more than 1.5 long-range makes per night.
Given how valuable floor-spacing can be to an offense that features a lot of rim attacks by James and Davis, L.A. should be on the lookout for more shooting help.
It's not a break-the-bank kind of need, but a bargain-priced specialist could find his way into head coach Frank Vogel's playoff rotation.
Wayne Ellington, a one-time Laker, seems like he's just waiting to be rescued from the going-nowhere-fast Detroit Pistons. And Reggie Bullock is unlikely considered part of the long-term plan for the New York Knicks.
For what should be a minimal investment, L.A. could help itself in a not-insignificant way by prying one of these sharpshooting rentals loose.
Swap Frontcourt Depth for Backcourt Boost
Jumbo ball just steered the Lakers into the winner's circle, so it's not like they should suddenly revert to a small-ball strategy. But frankly, there's so much talent in this frontcourt that Vogel will have a hard time maximizing its collective impact in the postseason.
Harrell, Gasol and Kuzma all have arguments to be considered among the most talented members of the supporting cast, but that leaves a lot of overlap in the rotation. That's part of the reason none of the three is seeing even 25 minutes per game, and the Spaniard is on course to shatter his previous low with just 18.9 minutes per night.
The Lakers could help themselves by sacrificing some of this depth to bulk up the perimeter collection. Gasol turns 36 on Friday and is too old to capture the attention of a seller, but those clubs could talk themselves into wanting to explore the remaining upside for Harrell or Kuzma.
L.A. shouldn't move them for just anyone, but a reliable veteran like George Hill—a former teammate of James in Cleveland—or Derrick Rose, reportedly a Lakers target at the 2020 deadline, might bolster the backcourt enough to justify the cost.
Push for a Pelican
Should the Lakers push for more shooting help, they don't have to confine their search to the clearance section. The cost obviously grows the moment they leave it but so does the potential reward.
While players like Ellington or Bullock might only find minor roles in L.A., a hired gun like JJ Redick could work his way into a lot more. His off-ball movement could prove magical alongside a quarterback like James, and the mere threat of his shooting (career 41.4 percent from range) could give Davis more breathing room on the interior.
Redick's days with the New Orleans Pelicans might be numbered, too. As they've struggled to gain any traction this season, they've reportedly been "receiving calls" about the 36-year-old (and, for what it's worth, former Laker Lonzo Ball) and "shown an openness to discussing trades," per The Athletic's Shams Charania.
Redick is probably on the high end of what the Lakers can afford, but maybe his early struggles (career-worst 30.0 percent from deep) could keep the trade cost at a reasonable level.